It is no secret that the nation’s election system is imperfect, and Nebraska’s election system is no exception. Indeed, the issues that plague elections nationwide are the same source of problems in Nebraska. Troublesome election issues in this state include: decentralized election administration; a lack of uniform election standards; arbitrary voter registration deadlines; and the appointment of highlevel, partisan, political operatives to administer elections. Combined, these factors create a system of ad hoc decision-making that, at best, leads to the unequal treatment of voters from one county to the next, and, at worst, could lead to partisan manipulation of elections. The solutions to these problems are surprisingly straightforward. However, the political barriers are exceptional. In Nebraska, like many states, election administration is highly decentralized, with a different election official administering the elections for each of the state’s ninety-three counties. While the Nebraska secretary of state also serves as chief election officer, has the power to make uniform interpretations of election law, and has a responsibility to train election administrators, the secretary of state rarely does so. Surprisingly, Nebraska’s secretary of state is one of the few state election officers in our region who does not provide uniform election administration standards or poll worker standards and guidelines. This decentralized system of conducting elections leads to varying degrees of administrative competency and fosters non-uniform election practices from county to county. Non-uniform election practices in turn lead to unequal treatment of voters and trigger equal protection implications. This Comment will explore the statutory structure of Nebraska’s election system and point out areas of concern. First, it will examine the decentralized nature of the Nebraska election system and how this leads to a lack of uniformity and unequal treatment of voters. Second, this Comment will discuss the effect of arbitrary registration deadlines on voter turnout, particularly among traditionally disenfranchised populations. Third, it will explore the partisan nature of the Nebraska election system and the subsequent negative effects of partisan election administration. Finally, this Comment will discuss the various solutions and ways in which reform may take place. This Comment is a call and roadmap for substantive election reform in Nebraska. All too often, substantive reform within democracies is reactive rather than proactive. What is at stake? Elections are the primary vehicle by which citizens in a democratic society voice their will. The success or failure of the election system directly reflects upon the democratic system as a whole. Reliable, fair, and accessible elections are critical to a form of government that relies upon legitimacy through democratic governance.
Adam S. Morfeld,
Addressing Constitutional Concerns and Strengthening Nebraska’s Election Administration: A Roadmap to Substantive Reform,
90 Neb. L. Rev.
Available at: http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/nlr/vol90/iss3/6